As the capital of the first Sub-Saharan African country to become independent of colonial rule, Accra has been growing as a cultural, economic and political hub of the region since 1957. Francisco Anzola, Flickr
Learn how to join the Global Landscapes Forum Accra, 29–30 October, here.
Known for its fashion, food and dancing, Ghana’s rapidly growing capital Accra is a kaleidoscope of cultures from around the country and West Africa at large. Ahead of the Global Landscapes Forum heading to the city 29–30 October for two days of action on restoring African landscapes, we spoke to Accra native Joselyn Dumas, celebrity T.V. show host and founder of her namesake philanthropic organization, about where to go and what to do when in town.
“The beauty of Accra is that we are all one people, all
Ghanaians, happy to come together to showcase our culture in a unified way. There’s
massive urban migration happening right now, so you get the feel of all of Ghana
in one spot.
“People in the city are laid back and chill. The attitude is: if there’s nothing you can do about something, why worry? They’re also extraordinarily hospitable. You’ll never get lost in Accra because people will stop to guide you if you’re lost.”
Osu Castle: A 17th-century colonial fort turned political museum overlooking the Gulf of Guinea that formerly served as the government’s headquarters and is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Black Star Square: More commonly known as Independence Square, a large, breezy square by the Gulf that’s grounds for all major national festivals and events as well as the Independence Arch and Black Star Monument
“We’ll never force you to eat our food, but I promise that
if you try it, you’ll come back for more. Local delicacies from all over the
country can be found in different neighborhoods. But be careful – Ghanaian food
can be quite spicy. There are also a lot of restaurants coming up, from
Japanese to really amazing Indian, Italian, French. Anything you want, you can
find it now in Accra.”
Buka Restaurant: Modern pan-African cuisine in a house with a lovely terrace
Chez Clarisse: A down-at-heel spot that serves some of the best Ghanaian food, most notably the tilapia
Dimaensa: A trendy bar and grill with excellent jollof, a traditional spiced rice dish
Bush Kanteen: A cheap but delicious eatery on the University of Ghana campus that serves a variety of everyday stews and meats as well as a taste of student life
Azmera Restaurant: Award-winning ingredient-focused fine Ghanaian cuisine served in dining room filled with local textiles and art
Bantama Avenue: Fresh, colorful local fare on a tree-shaded patio with furniture of repurposed crates
Urban Grill: A trendy African-fusion grill house filled with art and the largest outdoor film screen in Ghana for movie nights
“The beauty of Accra is that it’s a fusion of fashion. Everybody
brings their own cultural backgrounds from different parts of Ghana, and it all
fuses together in their clothes – special colors, fabrics and beads from
“On Fridays, people wear African clothes to work, so you’ll see everything from the smocks worn in northern Ghana to Ankara pants and matching shirts. People will wear this to parties too.”
“Ghanaians are very entrepreneurial, and anything you could
ever want is found in the markets, from foodstuffs to fabrics. There are a lot
of arts and handicrafts: wood paintings, wood carvings, symbols to decorate
your house, cow hides, things that speak so much of African culture.
“One of the prides of Ghana is also shea butter. Lush Cosmetics uses northern Ghanaian shea butter in just about all their products. It makes your hair and skin beautiful, and you can mix in natural oils to make it more fragrant.”
Makola Market: A must-visit traditional market and Ghanaian landmark that dates back 95 years, known in particular for its beads, fabrics and pan-African foods and produce
Hamamat: Producer of some of the highest-quality shea butter in Africa, often mixed with other herbs and oils in a variety of skin products
“On weekends, people will get outside the city and go to beautiful lake and beach resorts nearby. Some are just 45 minutes by car.”
“Nightlife starts on Wednesdays, but they’re usually pretty chill. Thursdays, people also go out, but the most nightlife happens on Fridays. We don’t go out on Saturdays because we’re very religious and must be up for church on Sunday. And it’s very safe – you can stay out until 4 a.m. and be fine.”
+233 Jazz Bar: One of the city’s most popular music spots with live bands six nights of the week
Bloombar: A buzzing outdoor cocktail bar strung with Edison bulbs
Republic: An artsy local night spot with a calendar of quiz nights, DJs, karaoke and more
Twist: One of the city’s oldest and most beloved nightclubs that still gets packed for dancing
Days start around 4 a.m., with people leaving the house by 5 a.m. to beat the traffic. Shops generally open around 8 a.m. Dinner is typically around 6 p.m., and bedtime around 9 p.m.
The typical greeting is a handshake – often a long one. If you’re greeting someone elderly, wait to be invited to approach. If you’re meeting a chief or someone of status, take to your knees.
Average tipping in restaurants and bars is 18 to 20 percent.
There is Uber, but local taxis readily found throughout the city are the most common means of transportation, though motorbike taxis can save time in traffic. Local buses, known as “tro-tros,” are generally packed to the brim but worth a ride for the experience.
Who’s Charlie? No one knows, but the name is often tacked onto words and phrases in the way of “man” or “dude.” E.g.: What’s up Charlie?
The two most celebrated holidays in Ghana are Christmas and the Homowo festival from May until August. Christmas is full of parties, while Homowo, a cultural remembrance of the country’s pre-colonial famine, is filled with traditions of feasting, singing, dancing and giving alms to the poor, culminating in its final days.
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